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DeVonta Smith
AP
Command Performances

CFF - Bottom-10 teams in Returning Production

by Eric Froton
Updated On: February 7, 2020, 1:32 am ET

Since I went through the 10 teams with the most returning production in 2020 last week, it's only fair to also review the teams with the least returning production in 2020. 

Bottom 10 in S&P Overall Returning Production:

Air Force

It's important to note that the S&P returning production metric weighs returning WR production more heavily than any other offensive group. With service academies offenses the WR's are far less emphasized due to their option-based systems. Air Force throws more than Navy and Army, but that's not saying much as they only averaged 123 PYPG last year while the other two academies were both under 100 PYPG. Offensively the Falcons improved from 30.3 PPG in 2018 to 34.1 PPG last season while finishing second in the nation averaging 298 YPG, which is a 15-YPG improvement year-over-year. Starting QB Donald Hammond III returns and will be flanked by punishing FB Timothy Jackson and speed-back Kaden Remsberg who rushed for 1,050 yards and 8 touchdowns. However Air Force loses 7 of their 19 rostered OL to graduation, including three multi-year starters, and lose both of their starting WR's, Geraud Sanders and Benjamin Waters, who accounted for basically ALL of Air Force's aerial production. As starting TE Kade Waguespack also departs, it's clear that the Falcons are about to undergo a full-scale turnover of their pass-catching unit with the leading returning WR/TE being Daniel Morris who caught 1 pass for 10 yards last year. Even with the expected turnover, Air Force won 11 games in 2019 and had nowhere to go but down anyway, but how far down is the question. AFU has been remarkably consistent, averaging between 30.3 PPG and 35.2 PPG for the past six-seasons of HC Troy Calhoun's 13-year tenure. Regression is likely, with the offense possibly even falling under 30 PPG for the first time since posting 24.7 PPG in 2014. The production drop-off will not be nearly as drastic this time around though.

 

Alabama

The Tide capped off a prodigious two-year offensive explosion by scoring the second most points in the nation with 47.2 PPG and finishing 6th in Total Yards with 511 YPG. Now the CFF world gets to see how high-powered the Bama offensive machine runs without likely first-round pick TUA at the helm. We got a glimpse of his potential successor Mac Jones late in the season, and the results gave Jones-owners in CFF reason for optimism as he completed 69% of his passes for 1,503 yards and a 14/3 ratio, being sacked only twice in 141 pass attempts. He will be heavily challenged by five-star 2020 QB Bryce Young who is perceived to be a generational talent. He even received the same 247sports.com final grade of 101.2 that teen heart-throb Trevor Lawrence received when he was labeled the top QB prospect of 2017. Bama was lucky enough to have 2017 #1 overall RB recruit Najee Harris  and 2019 team receiving-leader Devonta Smith forego the NFL Draft. That's the good news. The bad news is All-American WR Jerry Jeudy and speed-merchant WR Henry Ruggs declared early. The electric Jaylen Waddle will fill one of the starting spots, but it will be interesting to see who fills the third WR role. John Metchie, Xavier Williams and Chadarius Townsend are the best current options to fill the role. Their OL is going to be loaded, losing only Jedrick Wills Jr. from their starting unit. The majority of vacated production for Bama on offense stems from the loss of TUA, Jeudy and Ruggs. We have already gotten a taste of what we can expect from a Tua-free offense, and it was pretty enticing for CFF purposes. I'm not remotely concerned about Alabama's ability to post 40 PPG in 2020.

Utah

The Utes are still recovering from their loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship that potentially cost them a trip to the CFB Playoffs. It's not going to get any easier as they lose QB Tyler Huntley and All Pac-12 workhorse RB Zack Moss who is considered one of the top RB's in the 2020 NFL Draft class. TE Brant Kuithe is their best returning offensive option as he showcased uncommon versatility out of the TE position, leading the team with 34 catches and 602 receiving yards, while also rushing 6 times for 102 yards and 9 combined rushing/receiving TD's. Highly touted Sophomore RB recruit Jordan Wilmore will battle junior RB Devin Brumfield for primary rushing duties now that Devonta'e Henry-Cole has entered The Portal. Their line is in good shape, they transfer in former-SoCar QB Jake Bentley and Utah just inked their highest rated recruiting class (29th overall) since joining the Pac-12, so there is at least some optimism. Still, their 32.3 PPG scoring average is the highest HC Kyle Whittingham has produced since their foray into the Pac-12. Now losing the engine of their offense in Moss along with their veteran QB Huntley's leadership, it's reasonable to suspect a decrease in offensive production for the Utes. I'm projecting a dip into the 28-29 PPG range that Utah hovered around from 2016-18. 

Eastern Michigan

It's hard to overstate what a great job HC Chris Creighton has done in Ypsilanti, which is a notoriously difficult place to recruit and succeed. To put it into perspective, EMU had not been to a bowl since 1987 prior to HC Creighton's arrival. They have now been to a bowl-game in three-of-the-last-4 years under his guidance. The Eagles now lose All-MAC QB Mike Glass III, longtime starting RB Shaq Vann and 3 of their top 5 WR's, including leading receiver Arthur Jackson III. The OL returns 3-of-5 starters and should be solid, but we're talking about a full-scale skill position changeover. The best returning options are junior WR's Quian Williams who snagged 52 receptions, 661 yards and 6 touchdowns, and Dylan Drummond who led the team with 55 receptions for 493 yards and 3 TD's. For CFF purposes, the loss of a proven veteran QB takes the luster off of these promising WR's. EMU averaged 29.2 PPG, a mark that  is likely to regress into the low-20's. EMU simply loses too much talent and will shuttle down the MAC rankings accordingly in 2020.

New Mexico State

The first four teams on this list were relatively successful teams hit hard by graduations and declarations that are looking to restock the cupboards. New Mexico State scored merely 21.7 PPG as 7th year HC Doug Martin led the Aggies to a 2-10 record and a third consecutive decline in scoring with a 3.5 PPG drop from 2018. Martin is now being investigated for allegations of misconduct related to his treatment of injured players. New Mexico State loses star-RB Jason Huntley and his backup Christian Gipson from the backfield, while also losing their top-2 WR's in Tony Nicholson and OJ Clark. NMSU has a long way to go before I am willing to invest in this program for CFF purposes as they will likely struggle to crack 20 PPG.

UTEP

HC Dana Dimel enters year-3 of his longform attempt to rebuild this sputtering program. It's not going well. The Miners averaged only 329 YPG "good" for 116th in the nation, along with 19.6 PPG which is actually an improvement on 2018's 17.7 YPG. Starting backfield-mates QB Kai Locksley and RB Treyvon Hughes both move-on.  It's hard to project any improvement on UTEP's feeble offensive performances from the past three seasons. They are a program to avoid in almost every CFF format.

FIU

Though FIU decreased from 34.6 PPG in 2018 to 26.5 PPG last season, Butch Davis still beat in-state P5 bully Miami while leading the Panthers in their third consecutive bowl game. For CFF purposes the 8 point year-over-year decrease coupled with a drop from 422 YPG to 377 YPG has me concerned about their 2020 prospects. FIU averaged 25.6 PPG in 2017, so last year's 34.6 PPG is likely the outlier when factoring in the losses facing FIU in 2020. Starting QB James Morgan graduates, as do top RB's Napoleon Maxwell and Anthony Jones along with the 315 carries between them. Two of their top-3 WR's depart, as this offense is beginning to look painfully thin. Shermar Thornton led with 51 receptions for 668 yards and 5 TD's, qualifying him as the top returning offensive player for the Panthers in 2020. D'Vonte Price should slide into the starting RB role while leading QB candidate Kaylan Wiggins rushed 49 times for 323 yards and 3 TD's and could provide some deep-league CFF value in deep leagues slanted towards rushing-yards. I don't see any players you HAVE to get from this team, but HC Davis' recent success shows he can compete in the CUSA so you can't ignore FIU in deeper formats. 

Western Michigan

The Broncos finished 25th in total yards with 445 YPG while posting 33.1 PPG, which marks the 6th straight year WMU has averaged over 32 PPG. It's been an amazing CFF run for HC Tim Lester up at Kalamazoo, but 2020 will certainly test his resiliency in what is likely to be a reorganization offensively. Longtime starting QB Jon Wassink leaves along with All-MAC RB LeVante Bellamy, All-MAC TE Giovanni Ricci and #3 receiver Keith Mixon Jr. The positives are that the OLine is in good shape with 4 starters back, leading WR Skyy Moore and #4 WR Deshon Bussell return  while sophomore RB Sean Tyler has been groomed to take over Bellamy's role in the offense. The QB position will be manned by sophomore Kaleb Eleby who was held out of significant game action this year so he could redshirt and have three seasons to lead the Bronco offense as Wassink's successor. Though the losses are painful, HC Lester has already accounted for their departures and I see WMU's six-year streak of fantasy relevance to continue.

Louisiana Tech

7th year HC skip Holtz has become an institution down in Ruston, LA by qualifying for a bowl in each year of his La Tech tenure. In 2018 the bulldogs had failed to scored 30+ PPG for the first time in half-a-decade, averaging only 24.7 PPG and 373 YPG in an injury-marred 8-5 season in which the Bulldogs were bolstered by a defense that terrorized opposing offenses with 45 sacks and allowing only 23 PPG. Last year La Tech got back to their CFF roots by besting their 2018 offensive performance by 64 YPG and 7.8 PPG. J'Mar Smith finally delivered on his promise throwing for 2,977 yards with an 18-5 ratio while RB Justin Henderson rushed for 1,062 yards, 5.6 YPC and 15 touchdowns as LT's goal-line hammer. Though they lose receiving leader Malik Stanley (40/649/3) the offense spread the ball around pretty well with five-wide receivers catching 30 passes or more, so there is plenty of experience in the WR corps. The offensive line loses three starters, but those are the only senior lineman on the roster so there is at least ample bodies to throw at the situation. LT replaces a 3-year starting QB, 3 OL and 2-of-their-3 top WR's but still has the depth and talent to average 28-30 PPG so long as a credible QB emerges. If the QB position struggles we could see a return to 2018 levels of production.

Florida Atlantic

FAU rode the Lane Train all the way to 449 total YPG and 36.4 PPG as the Owls posted an impressive 11-3 season in HC Kiffin's swan song season. QB Chris Robison broke-out with 3,701 yards and a 28-6 ratio while Malcolm Davidson ran for 711 yards with a 7.0 YPC and nine TDs. The problems arise with the WR corps, as they lose their top-5 pass catchers from 2019, including monster 1,000 yard TE Hunter Bryant. The good news is new FAU HC Willie Taggart  brought in high-profile P5 WR transfers T.J. Chase from Clemson, D'Marcus Adams from FSU and Aaron Young from Duke. Adams will likely have to sit, but the other two are expected to be eligible immediately. With QB/RB continuity in the backfield and 3 returning OL, FAU's offense will be in good shape so long as the talented WR transfers can develop chemistry with returning QB Robison. I thinking FAU can still crack 30 PPG with Taggart as he attempts to rehabilitate his image in the wake of his ill-fated FSU coaching term. The Owls should be a bully in the CUSA once again.